Taxpayers stuck with high bill to look after old school

The old Tynecastle High School
The old Tynecastle High School
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TAXPAYERS in Edinburgh have been left to pick up an annual bill of £112,000 to maintain an empty building because of the collapse of plans to redevelop Tynecastle Stadium, the Evening News can reveal.

Owner Vladimir Romanov’s decision to mothball the scheme means that the former Tynecastle High – which was to be sold to the club – is instead lying empty.

That means that the city council is left with the huge cost of maintaining and securing the building as well as missing out on a £6 million land deal.

City chiefs today insisted they were “exploring options” for selling the building amid calls for the club – which uses the former school’s car park on matchdays – to foot the bill.

Councillor Marilyne MacLaren, the city’s education leader, said: “It is frustrating that we have had to wait such a long time for a decision. This has meant we have incurred high security costs and opportunities to sell the site have been lost.

“We are now exploring options for its disposal but of course we will continue to maintain and secure the building. I hope this is not going to be a large financial stone around the council’s neck.”

The collapse of the deal to sell the 4.6-acre site that contained the school, Tynecastle Nursery and an adult learning centre at the top of the market has left the council facing getting considerably less once it presses ahead with a sale in the current economic conditions.

The Gorgie club had needed the building, which is empty as a result of the school relocating to a nearby site at McLeod Street in early 2010, to allow for its original planned £51m redevelopment of Tynecastle.

It was also to pay for the relocation of the nursery, but council chiefs now expect the nursery to remain at its current site for the foreseeable future.

Despite lodging plans for the ambitious scheme in 2008, progress stalled before the club announced early this year that it was instead setting its sites on developing a new “community stadium” elsewhere in the west of Edinburgh to replace its historic home.

Dave Anderson, the city council’s director of city development, said: “Heart of Midlothian FC explored a variety of alternative development options in the period to 2010.

“However, it became apparent that none of these options provided an optimal solution to their long-term needs.

“The delay in progressing the 2008 planning application has meant that this has not been necessary. However, the uncertainty has also created problems for the council in relation to the assets it owns adjacent to the ground, specifically the former Tynecastle High School building. The council is currently incurring annual maintenance and security costs for this school in the order of £112,000 per annum.”

At one point, the building was considered as a temporary home for James Gillespie’s High during its refurbishment, although these plans have since been dropped.

Officials have also admitted that demand for their land from developers looking to provide lucrative housing, retail or office development will be “limited” and that the only interest is likely to come from less-valuable affordable housing, industrial and student flat schemes.